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Costa Rica Volcanoes

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Costa Rica is known mainly for its biodiversity and outstanding natural resources. One of its undeniable attractions for both travelers and researchers from everywhere in the world is its volcanoes, which play a key role in the landscape of this beautiful country.

Geologists have spotted more than 200 volcanic formations in Costa Rica, however only 5 are considered active: Arenal, Irazú, Poás, Rincón de la Vieja, and Turrialba volcanoes.

In this article, you will get to know interesting data not only about these 5 active volcanoes but an extra bonus volcano that should be on the list of tourists who love these unique mountainous formations, as they all have different experiences to offer.

#1 Arenal Volcano

Arenal volcano in Costa Rica

Ranked #7 in the most stunning volcanoes in the world by Lux Magazine Life, and ranked #8 by CNN Travel in the most photogenic volcanoes, Arenal represents the favorite and most visited of Costa Rica volcanoes.

Arenal is one of the few volcanoes in the world that has an undeniable perfectly symmetrical conical shape. Its main crater is 140 meters (460 feet) in diameter.

It remained dormant for hundreds of years, showcasing only one crater. Its sudden major eruption in 1968 destroyed the nearby town of Tabacon, resulting in the formation of three well-defined craters. From 1968 to 2010, this colossal volcano continued its activity, turning into the 10th longest span volcanic eruption on the planet since 1750.

This majestic giant has become one of the favorite tourist spots due to the variety of activities that entertain and relax its visitors. At the base of this famous volcano, you can find Lake Arenal, considered by many as one of the world’s premier windsurfing and kite riding regions (mainly from November to April where winds are stronger and more dependable).

From natural thermal springs to canopy tours, biking, rappel, spas, horseback riding, kite surfing, kayaking, and much more, one thing is sure, you will not run out of options to have a great time there.

Quick Facts About Arenal 

Height: 1,633 meters (5,358 feet).

Location: At the center of Arenal Volcano National Park in northern Costa Rica, 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) southwest of La Fortuna region in San Carlos, a small town in Alajuela province. 

Active: Yes, but it is currently in a resting phase.

Last Eruption: 2010.

#2 Irazú Volcano

view inside the crater of Irazú Volcano in Costa Rica
View inside one of the craters of Irazú Volcano in Costa Rica

Irazú is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica, located within the Irazú Volcano National Park. It is located close to San José and it is highly accessible, which makes it a great choice for a one-day trip.

With five craters, indisputably differentiated and magnificent views, the Irazú volcano cannot be missed. The two most relevant craters due to their activity are the main crater and Diego de la Haya crater.

The color of the lake water is absolutely amazing, the tone depends on its hydrothermal activity as fluids raise and affect the water. It can vary from emerald green to crimson red.

Weather in that area is usually cold and foggy, (a reason why warm clothes are highly recommended) however, if luck is on your side and you get a clear day, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans can be spotted from its top.

Quick Facts About Irazú 

Height: 3,432 meters (11,260 feet).

Location: in Cordillera Central, 32 kilometers north of Cartago city.

Active: Yes, at the moment the crater releases harmful steam.

Last Eruption: 1994.

#3 Poás Volcano

smoke billowing out of the Poas volcano in Costa Rica

Poás volcano has one of the largest craters on the planet with a diameter of 1,320 meters (4.330 feet) and 300 meters (984 feet) deep. Inside the crater, there is a magnificent lagoon rich in sulfur and acids, capable of causing acid rain when it dries up.

Tourists can expect an up-close scene of the crater of gray and black tones, together with fumaroles. Although the Poás does not expel lava, it keeps a constant activity of gas emanation in the fumaroles and sporadic gasses and rock eruptions.

The unique view offered by the crater along with the trails of the Poás Volcano National Park offers tourists the opportunity to experience the characteristic flora of highlands and the cloud forest combined with the damage caused by volcanic gasses.

Be aware that the Poás Volcano National Park may close suddenly if a volcanic activity is present.

Quick Facts About Poás 

Height: 2,697 meters (8,848 feet).

Location:  located in the northern region of the Central Valley of Costa Rica, in the Central Volcanic Mountain Range, in Alajuela province.

Active: Yes. It maintains a constant activity of gas emanation and sporadic gas and rocks eruptions.

Last Eruption: 2019.

#4 Rincón de la Vieja Volcano

The Rincon de la Vieja Volcano in Costa Rica, with the top half of the cone missing, leaving a huge crater that emits steam to this day - brought to you by Special Places of Costa Rica

Rincón de la Vieja is one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica. It is around 600,000 years old and it has nine volcanic craters and at least 32 rivers flowing down its sides.

The impressive Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and its sleeping sister, the Santa María Volcano, form the center of the amazing Rincón de la Vieja National Park, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Guanacaste Conservation Area.

Its name means “Old Woman’s Corner” and it is based on an indigenous legend about princess Curabanda who fell in love with Mixcoac, head of an adjoining adversary clan, who was tossed into the cavity by her dad Curabande when he found out about their affair.

One of the main features of the magnificent Rincón de la Vieja Volcano is the presence of a large number of secondary activities (solfataras, fumaroles, mud volcanoes, hot springs, and others), some of which are used for the production of geothermal energy.

Hiking in Rincón de la Vieja National Park on the Las Pailas trail takes you 2.5 miles (3.5 km) through an exotic dry tropical forest where you will be able to enjoy incredible nature, volcanic activity, and wildlife. Rincón de la Vieja National Park is home to 300 species of birds and several mammals, including white-faced spider monkeys, howler monkeys, pumas, coatis, among others.

Quick Facts About Rincón de la Vieja  

Height: 1,916 meters (6,286 ft).

Location: north-western Costa Rica, about 23 km (14 mi) from Liberia, in the province of Guanacaste.

Active: Yes.

Last Eruption: 2021.

#5 Turrialba Volcano

Turrialba volcano in Costa Rica

Turrialba Volcano is Costa Rica’s second tallest volcano. Its formation is the result of explosive and effusive lava events. Turrialba Volcano has three craters with the presence of dry lava flowing on its flanks.

This volcano is located inside the delightful Turrialba National Park, where you won’t encounter big groups of tourists or locals as much as you would at other parks in Costa Rica.

Take into consideration that, unlike the other volcanoes, Turrialba requires an extensive walk to get close to it. Once at Turrialba National Park, the walk to the volcano takes approximately 4 km uphill with a duration of around 2 hours to reach the viewpoint of the craters, 30 minutes at the viewpoint, and 1.5 hours downhill, which is classified as a medium to a high level. Therefore, the total walk lasts about 4 hours but it’s 4 hours that you won’t regret.

You can make your online reservation to visit the beautiful Turrialba Volcano here: www.usurecr.org/caminatasvolcanturrialba

Quick Facts About Turrialba

Height: 3,340 meters (10,958 feet).

Location: Santa Cruz, Turrialba, province of Cartago, 24 km from the city of Turrialba.

Active: Yes. It constantly experiences thermal anomalies and ash explosions.

Last Eruption: 2022.

Bonus: Barva Volcano

View of crater lagoon at Barva Volcano
View of a crater lagoon at Barva Volcano

Barva is the third tallest volcano in Costa Rica, located at the highest point of Braulio Carrillo National Park at around 10,000 feet above sea level.

The Laguna Barva (Barva Lagoon) is its main crater, it is circular and has steep walls, covered with abundant vegetation. The lagoon is 8,600 meters deep and 70 meters in diameter; it maintains an average temperature of 11°C.

The surface of the Barva volcano covers 1,120 to 1,500 km². According to the National Seismological Network (RSN), it is the largest volcano in Costa Rica in terms of extension and volume. It has three principal summits that can be seen from the Central Valley which has given it the common local name of Las Tres Marías.

The area around the volcano has many hiking trails with different levels of difficulty. Most of the protected area is covered by primary forest, and there are around 6,000 species of plants.

It is also home to approximately 515 species of birds, resident and migratory, making Barva Volcano a treat for sightseeing and hiking.

Quick Facts About Barva

Height: 2,906 meters (9,534 feet).

Location: 22 kilometers (14 miles) northeast of San José in the province of Heredia.

Active: not at the moment.

Last Eruption: 1700s.

Additional Reading About Costa Rica’s Volcanoes

Costa Rica Volcanoes: Fire, Smoke, Wonder and Hot Springs Too

Other Attractions

After you have visited volcanoes and national parks you may want to observe (or cool off in) some of the many beautiful waterfalls while in Costa Rica. Be sure to view our full list of things to do in Costa Rica to ensure you’re experiencing all of the main attractions while on your vacation.

FAQs About Volcanoes in Costa Rica

Why does Costa Rica have so many volcanoes?

In Costa Rica there are many volcanoes due to its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, also called the Circum-Pacific Belt. This is a trail along the Pacific Ocean distinguished by active volcanoes and continuous earthquakes. Most of Earth’s volcanoes and seismic tremors occur along the Ring of Fire.


When was the last time the volcano erupted in Costa Rica?

The last volcanic eruption was in 2022 by the Turrialba Volcano.


Can you hike the Arenal Volcano?

No, it isn’t allowed or safe to climb Arenal Volcano, however, right next to it there is an extinct volcano called Cerro Chato that can be hiked while still enjoying Arenal Volcano’s view.


Which of Costa Rica’s volcanoes are still active?

There are currently five active volcanoes in Costa Rica. They are Turrialba Volcano, Poas Volcano, Arenal Volcano, Rincon de la Vieja Volcano and Irazu Volcano.

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